Important Fine Art and Aboriginal Art
30 November 2016


(1920 – 1999)

oil and tempera on composition board

160.0 x 183.0 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd

$ 100,000 – 150,000
Sold for $97,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 46 - 30 November 2016, Sydney

Collection of Michael Wells and Susannah York, London (inscribed verso)
Savill Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired June 1998


Arthur Boyd: Retrospective Exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery, London, June–July 1962, cat. 146 (cat. no. inscribed verso, lent by the artist)
Arthur Boyd Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, March 1964, cat. 52 (label attached verso, lent by Mrs Michael Wells, London)
Arthur Boyd Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings,1936–62, Museum of Modern Art and Design, Melbourne, 5–28 May 1964, cat. 56
Three Australian Painters, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, 1965
A Century of Australian Painting, 1888 – 1988, Savill Galleries, Sydney, 21 April – 21 May 1988, cat. 45 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)


Arthur Boyd: Retrospective Exhibition June–July 1962, The Gallery, London, 1962, p. 30, cat. 146
Philipp, F., Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, London, 1967, pp. 108–110, 127–128, cat. 10.70, pl. XXXIX (illus.)
McKenzie, J., Arthur Boyd: Art and Life, Thames and Hudson, London, 2000, pp. 109 – 111

Catalogue text

The imaginative power of Arthur Boyd’s Sleeping Nude, 1962 singles it out as one of his great works, neighbour to Nude with Beast III (Diana and Actaeon I), 1962, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, courtesy of the Felton Bequest. The two paintings were in Boyd’s 1962 exhibition held in London’s Whitechapel Gallery. A major retrospective, it was reviewed enthusiastically by The Times, Tatler, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and others. It also claimed the attention of Boyd scholars such as the eminent Australian Franz Philipp, whose Thames and Hudson monograph on Boyd was published a few years later. Philipp devoted several pages and a colour plate to the painting, his enthusiasm leading him to write:

It is the ‘Venus observed’ image, … , that brings us to the dénouement of the mythological circle, to the most tranquil and poetic picture of this phase of great creative abundance, The Sleeping Nude (cat. 10.70) of 1962.

The artist has represented this sleeper of mother-of-pearl iridescence in a pose remarkably close to that of Giorgione’s Dresden Venus.1

Philipp expanded his observations to include Titian through to Manet’s Olympia, observing that ‘Boyd’s Sleeping Nude turns back to the origins of this symbol of desire [quoting Kenneth Clark] “to the inspired idea that naked beauty could be a natural feature of landscape”.2

Sleeping Nude has its genesis in Boyd’s Bride Series, the white of the wedding dress and red soldier’s jacket, voyeuristic fixations and the like. Later in London, its powerful companions were to include Bridegroom in a Black Creek, 1960, which was once in the collection of Sidney Nolan. Another, the magnificent Figure in a Landscape (Nude Washing in a Creek III), 1961 is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Although Eros is more subdued in Sleeping Nude 1962, its sensuous appeal embraces the imagery, colour and the very application of the paint itself. The balance between stillness and movement, the primal setting and purple moon hint at another Eden, figures independent yet fused with the landscape. Flame-like light flickering across the body invitingly adds to its delicate yet ravishing beauty, sleep and the dreamy mood enhancing the brilliant imagery drawn from the subconscious. As has been noted by several scholars, in this and other paintings of the series, that Boyd created a new concept and image of the goddess of love and beauty, a Venus drawn from and suited to the twentieth century.

1. Philipp, F., Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, London, 1967, p. 108
2. Ibid, quoting Clark, K., The Nude, John Murray, London, 1956, p. 119